ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — It was a teddy bear of a holdout: Cuddly and short. The Kansas City Chiefs won’t actually put on pads and start knocking the snot out of one another until Sunday, officially, so if Eric Fisher wanted to, he could’ve squeezed in at least a little more sight-seeing out of the deal.
“I try to stay off the radar a little bit,” the Chiefs’ massive tackle, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, said with a grin after reporting for duty at the team’s preseason training camp.
The brass wanted him here Monday, with the rest of the rookies. Fisher turned up Friday instead, just a few hours before the first full-squad practice, having driven all the way from his native Michigan. Just a man, his truck, and the open road.
Oh, and voicemails.
Lots and lots of voicemails.
“I actually left the other night,” Fisher explained, grinning again. “On the way down, I just waited to get the call to come to camp.”
So he circled Iowa, more or less, even bunking a night at a hotel — “I don’t even know the name of the town,” Fisher said — and waited for the all-clear.
Finally, Friday morning, it came. Fisher agreed to a four-year contract worth roughly $22 million, with a team option for the fifth year. And with a boatload of cash up front — a reported $10 million to be paid out in the next five days, according to reports.
“I just wanted to get the deal done,” Fisher said.
“Obviously, there’s a little negotiating that needs to happen, and I told (agent Joel Segal) I wanted to get here as soon as possible and get to work. I really didn’t want to miss anything. But at the same time, you’ve got to take care of yourself and make sure everything’s set.”
So for the past three days, you were …
“Really, I was just talking to my agent,” Fisher said. “I hired him for a reason, and he did a great job getting this deal done. And I’m really happy that it got done when it got done, that I didn’t have to miss anything.”
Well, you did miss four days. Technically.
“I’ve been training,” Fisher said. “I’ve been preparing myself for whenever I did get here. I’m here now, that’s all that matters.”
Yes, Friday at Missouri Western State was sunshine, lollipops and rainbows — only without the lollipops and rainbows. The climate was more akin to La Jolla than St. Joe, with a comfortable, unseasonable breeze replacing the usual swelter.
“I thought he was fine; for this, I thought he was fine,” coach Andy Reid said of Fisher. “Listen, you never know. I thought he’d be here (on time). But I’ve been in this long enough to know that until the fish is in the boat, you don’t count it caught, right? So that’s how it works.”
And, hey, as first full-squad workouts go, the good outweighed the “meh.” Star wideout Dwayne Bowe spent the afternoon doing yoga off in a corner, the result of a “chest congestion,” as Reid described it. Rookie running back Knile Davis, who’s being tried out as a kick returner despite never handling the role as a collegian, muffed a few offerings, much to the consternation those looking for nits to pick.
On the flipside, new quarterback Alex Smith found Dexter McCluster deep twice in the early going, which got the assembled throng worked up into a pretty healthy lather. And quite a throng it was: An estimated 4,000 turned up to watch, which team officials called the largest, first-day non-stadium attendance ever at St. Joe, the club’s preseason home since 2010.
“Yeah, it’s a different atmosphere for me, coming out of a (Mid-American) school,” Fisher said. “You know, we almost had as many people (here) as we had at our games (at Central Michigan).”
Mount Pleasant, it ain’t. It’s a new world, new expectations, a new roster — and a new position: Right tackle.
“Really, it’s just getting in your stance repetitively, and you need to (get where), every day, it becomes like second nature,” said Fisher, who played almost exclusively on the left side with the Chippewas. “My body’s so used to the left side. But you know, getting through this training camp, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Getting in on time — or close enough — means more time to make that adjustment, more time to work out the kinks in full-contact, full-throttle game situations. It also means more time to get on the right side of veteran teammates who don’t want to be in St. Joe any more than you do.
“It’s important to get the deal right and have both sides be happy,” said Smith, who was the NFL’s top overall draft choice in 2005. “I mean, to be honest, that’s the priority. Because it’s a long-term deal — when you’re the No. 1 pick, you’re signing for more than one year. And you want both sides to be happy and content, I think.
“But it’s also important to get in here, I think. When you’re the No. 1 pick, you’re probably not going to be sitting very long; and in Eric’s case, it’s not at all. So getting here and getting as many reps as you can (is vital). He did a great job this offseason, but we didn’t have pads on and his position is pretty physical, so, I think the more reps, the better.”
Better late than … oh, well, you know.
“There is a business side,” Fisher replied. “Coming from college, it’s like the other part of it is school. And when you get here, the other part of it is business. So it’s definitely a business, but it’s a game when all the business is taken care of. And it’s a game I love.”
Long story short, he’s happy to be here. But not nearly as happy as the locals are to have him. You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at email@example.com